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Comment: The Royal B.C. Museum doesn't care what you think

A commentary by Geoff Russ, a Haida journalist, writer, and University of Victoria graduate.
Royal B.C. Museum on Belleville Street. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The Royal B.C. Museum has no idea what it is doing, or does it? They are being dishonest either way.

It has been a month since acting CEO Daniel Muzyka and Tourism Minister Melanie Mark announced the third floor would be shuttered and altered starting in January.

With less than a month to go, the question on almost everybody’s mind is: Will Old Town be demolished? There has been no answer, but most people can guess. When Muzyka used uncommon terms like “decant” instead of “demolish” like a normal person to describe their plans, it was not an accident.

Editorials and commentary protesting the potential ripping up of Old Town first made their way into the Times Colonist. Now even the Globe and Mail is publishing columns decrying Old Town’s destruction. Rarely do developments in Victoria make it into the big eastern papers and the RBCM is making bad press for the B.C. capital.

The RBCM could save itself the poor publicity and end the speculation by simply answering yes or no regarding the beloved, long-standing exhibit. It is a simple question that would take five seconds to answer. They haven’t after more than 30 days.

Either they have no idea what they are going to do and need to hire a public relations expert to communicate that, or they know exactly what is going to happen and refuse to share it for fear of future outcry.

Muzyka released a video featuring himself in the condemned exhibit. Without answering the central question, he explained that Becoming B.C. is too Eurocentric and the objects in the galleries need updating.

Few people disagree. Within almost every published and deserved criticism of the Royal B.C. Museum’s plans has been agreement that non-white history must be included going forward.

Likewise, most people agree that the First Peoples gallery should be changed with full Indigenous direction. It didn’t stop Mark from disingenuously brushing off critics of the planned changes as those who “want to maintain the status quo.”

The museum brought Christmas in Old Town back for what could be the last time holiday decorations adorn the gorgeous recreations. Consider it a gift-wrapped middle-finger to the public with a card signed by Muzyka and Mark.

What happens to Old Town has no consequences for either the acting CEO or the minister of tourism.

Muzyka is a temp and will return to the world of private equity once his brief tenure is over. Mark is the MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, the most reliably loyal NDP riding in the province. It was one of only two ridings that still voted NDP in the disastrous 2001 election when the B.C. Liberals all but wiped them out.

A chihuahua in an orange shirt could stand as the NDP candidate and still beat whatever real estate goon the B.C. Liberals run in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant. Nothing the minister does to the RBCM will hurt her prospects of being re-elected in Vancouver, even if she wants to destroy one of Victoria’s most popular tourist attractions.

There surely are more people involved in the process of redesigning the third floor, but Muzyka and Mark have anointed themselves the spokespersons for that process. Thus far they have not informed the public of those plans at all.

No concept or details have been made public. Do they even know what is going to happen to the third floor once it’s gutted?

As a sworn public servant and the head of a public institution, Mark and Muzyka have a duty to be honest with people. There are no consequences for either of them to do so. For now, they seem content to wait until Old Town is a pile of rubble for that to happen.

Calling it a disgrace is an understatement, but it doesn’t matter to either of them. Let them eat rubble?